So, My Dog Went To Prison…

My dog is in the slammer, the big house, the clink, the hoosegow, the calaboose. For really reals. She’s in a real California prison right now with human prisoners and other dogs. She’ll be there for 6 weeks, and if all goes well, she’ll come out reformed. Here’s hoping she doesn’t join a gang while she’s in there.

When I adopted her from the shelter, she acted like a regular puppy; a little hesitant meeting strangers and scared of garbage trucks. As the weeks wore on, she got progressively more protective of me and scared of loud things. It got to the point where she would bark at all people and dogs–even those she’d met before. And she tried to bolt from garbage trucks.

My last dog had fear aggression and with lots of work over the course of four years, I could take her for walks around the neighborhood. I still had to duck behind cars and trees when there was another dog nearby, but she did get a little better every day. My puppy’s behavior is actually worse.

She’s 6 months old and there’s no reason why her behavior can’t be fixed now before she’s entirely set in her ways. She’s mostly German shepherd (I think) and she’s getting enormous, i.e., she’s becoming difficult to control.

When I adopted her from the pound, some flyers came with her paperwork for discounts on pet food, etc. One of the flyers was for an organization called Paws For Life. They’re self-described like so: “Paws For Life K9 Rescue saves and transforms the lives of animals and people through innovative canine-centered programs that provide purpose, support, and opportunity.”

I took my dog there twice. The first time was for a basic obedience class that I signed up for before she became a raging monster. She didn’t do well in class, because there were other dogs there. The second time I went was for a one on one socialization assessment. Both times, once the trainers found out that she came from the shelter, they mentioned that the prison program might be good for her. When I got home from the socialization assessment, I immediately applied for the prison program. Once they verified that she did, in fact, come from the shelter, she was in.

Basically, the prison program takes dogs from high kill shelters, like the one where I adopted my dog, and sends them to California prisons where prisoners train them up to become good canine citizens.

The prison program helps the dogs and the prisoners. The dogs become trained and adoptable, and the prisoners learn useful skills and some of them even earn their freedom: “As of January 2020, twenty-one (21) Paws For Life participants have had their sentences commuted, most whom were serving life-sentences. This is more than any other program in the State.”

Paws For Life actually hires a lot of the prisoners from the program as dog trainers and caretakers when they are released from prison. So cool.

In addition to the prison program, they also have a program that pairs senior prisoners with senior shelter dogs, and programs for first responder and PTSD support. Not only that, but they offer free and unlimited training for any dog, even those that didn’t come from shelters. If you’re a dog owner in Los Angeles, I highly recommend going there.

My house is quiet now. Usually when it’s quiet, it means the puppy is into something she shouldn’t be into. I keep having to remind myself she’s not here. It was sad to see her go, but she’ll be back. When I dropped her off, one of the staff members noticed that I was sad and said, “It’s worth it.” At the end of May, I’ll go pick up my probably enormous, hopefully well trained dog.